The Israeli colonies in occupied Palestine constitute a war crime and crime against humanity. They form elements of the serious crime of population transfer, as codified in the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court, previously prosecuted at the International Military Tribunals at Nuremburg and Tokyo. The International Law Commission has referred to such changes to the demographic composition of an occupied territory as “such a serious act that it could echo the seriousness of genocide” (p. 105).
The industries related to these settler colonies form a long-standing example of both public sector and private sector engagement in the corresponding bundle of crimes. While they involve enterprises ranging from construction to manufacturing and extractive industries, the tourism sector also stands out as providing a vital lifeline not only for the sustainability of these illegal colonies in the so-called Holy Land, but also for the narrative attracting both the deliberate and unwitting—but no-less-complicit—war-crime holiday maker.
Now that digital travel companies are revolutionizing how the world goes on vacation, potential adventure seekers and other travelers now can book everything online. By marketing the carefree access to exotic locales, such companies as Airbnb, Inc. (Airbnb), Booking.com B.V. (Booking.com), Expedia Group, Inc. (Expedia) and TripAdvisor, Inc. (TripAdvisor) offer a wider range of choices in accommodation and things to do almost anywhere.
Where that market extends to war zones, occupied territories and contexts of grave human rights violations, promotional advertisements shield potential customers from awareness of their possible participation in the violations and/or crimes facilitating their tourism. These companies, which dominate the multibillion-dollar global online tourism industry, are the subject of a new Amnesty International report on how they list hotels, B&Bs, attractions or tours in Israeli settler colonies in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), including Jerusalem.
The report uncovers the point at which the human rights violations by occupiers’ theft of housing, land, property and natural resources meet breaches of international humanitarian law and international criminal law. The collaboration of these companies has become the subject of much documentation by the United Nations and independent Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations to which Amnesty now adds its contribution.
The Amnesty report interrogates these four companies’ claim to operate under high ethical values and respect for the rule of law. It exposes how they nonetheless operate outside the peremptory norms of international law, since
none of these fundamental norms and standards appears to influence the companies’ decisions to direct customers to abet international crime by patronizing Israeli occupiers. By doing business with settler colonies and their associated enterprises, all four companies, therefore, contribute to, and profit from, the maintenance, development and expansion of associated war crimes under international law.
The Amnesty report cites the extraterritorial obligation of all states “to act to prohibit or regulate these activities, when a state is both practically and legally able to do so” (pp. 11). That requires all states not to cooperate with the illegal situation, not to render aid or assistance, but also “to bring an end to” the illegal situation as a matter of jus cogens (pp. 30, 70–71).
The report does not mention the word “boycott,” which is term referring to a consumer’s exercise of voluntary choice. Rather it advances the legal conclusion that all parties—the State of Israel, states hosting the named corporations, third states, customers (both hosts and guests) and other involved parties, in particular the corporations involved in the war industry under review—must cease their illegal activities.
Download the report Destination: Occupation: Digital Tourism and Israel’s Illegal Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Photo: Braving British winter, human rights campaigners set up a barbed-wire beach outside the London headquarters of TripAdvisor on 30 January 2019, drawing attention to the online travel company`s collaboration with hotel operators inside illegal Israeli settlements. Source: Twitter.